Fat: the misunderstood F word that’s been vilified through numerous diet fads and so-called health tips over the years. Thought to be responsible for a whole host of health issues, it is important to distinguish between the bad fats and the good ones, as new studies link healthy fats to healthier hearts, weight loss and overall emotional well being.
So how did fats get on the naughty list? After World War II, trending research linked foods rich in fats to coronary heart disease. Pretty soon, health organisations chalked out guidelines to reduce fat intake and increase carb consumption. The food industry began churning out high-carb, low-fat products that lined grocery and refrigerator shelves; little did people know that not only were these studies bogus, these new sugar-packed diets would go on to cause an addiction in their own right.
New studies now show that foods rich in healthy fats are actually on the good side in the ‘waistline wars’. They help to lower unhealthy cholesterol, shed excess weight, fight fatigue, manage your moods, keep your mind sharp and even give you shinier hair and healthier nails.
It’s all about knowing which fats to make a part of your diet and its important to pick unsaturated fats over the saturated ones, cold-pressed oils over the processed kinds, and stay away from trans fats — guilty of everything fats have been accused of doing to your health. So we’ve put together a list of foods rich in healthy fats for you to try out.
Universally regarded to be a healthy choice, extra virgin olive oil is not only rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, but also contains vitamins E and K, and antioxidants that fight overall inflammation. It is also known to lower blood pressure and help cholesterol markers — improving your heart’s health. Use cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil to dress salads, cook veggies and pastas. While shopping, look for the International Olive Oil council seal to ensure a virgin quality and opt for darker bottles as they protect the oil from oxidation.
Avocados are probably the healthiest fruits you can get your hands on. Rich in monounsaturated fats, they raise the levels of good cholesterol while lowering the bad. They are also packed with antioxidants that are believed to fight cancer, and vitamin E that prevents free radical damage, boosts immunity and acts as an anti-ageing nutrient for your skin. Avocados are among the best sources of fibre and potassium, containing 70% more than bananas in fact. Avocado oil has a mild taste so it doesn’t overpower your cooking; its high smoke point makes it perfect for grilling or frying, and it makes for a tasty drizzle on salads, sandwiches and vegetables.
Nuts and seeds contain a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, with only traces of saturated fats, and each have their own benefits. Sesame seeds contain the powerful cancer-smashing sesamol antioxidant, while flaxseed oil is rich in plant omega-3s. Tiny pumpkin and sunflower seeds pack in a big punch with their cholesterol lowering polyunsaturated fats. All nuts and their oils are good for your heart, especially walnuts that contain heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats. When cooking, get creative with your flavours. Peanut and sesame oils add their yummy taste to food, especially with Asian cuisine, while chia and flaxseed are better suited to smoothies or as supplements.
At home in the tropics, coconut and its oils are rich in medium-chain fatty acids that are easily digested by the liver, not stored by your body as fat and are small in size which allows them to infuse cells with energy instantly. These fatty acids also improve brain and memory function, while the natural saturated fats increase levels of good cholesterol and heart health. The polyphenol antioxidants in the oil also make it an excellent anti-inflammatory ingredient and help reduce arthritis. Sweep up an extra virgin variety at the grocery store and use it while baking or cooking for that delicious taste of the tropics.
In the world of healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids are rock stars, and are found abundantly in naturally fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and tuna. They help lower blood pressure and triglycerides, fight inflammation, control blood clotting, improve heart health and sharpen your mind. Since the body isn’t capable of producing omega-3s on its own, you must rely on your diet for these essential compounds. Fish also contains protein and other nutrients that work towards keeping you healthier, with a lower risk of heart disease, depression, dementia and all sorts of common ailments. Baked, grilled or poached, cook your salmon in interesting ways to boost your diet with healthy fats.
By including healthy fats as a part of your diet, your body gets the boost of good health it truly deserves. With so many choices and benefits, your cooking and health are sure to be enriched. Stay informed on the newest health trends and nutritional tips by signing up to the Sun & Sand Sports newsletter in the box below, and head over to Sun & Sand Sports online to check the latest products to help you stay healthy and active.